Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Title

The Role of Emotional Expression on Person Identity Recognition

Author

Kristen Paris

Date of Award

2012

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D. in Psychology

First Advisor

Marilyn Mendolia

Second Advisor

Tucker Carrington

Third Advisor

Carrie V. Smith

Abstract

Facial information concerning person identity and emotional expression is vital to human social interaction, and therefore, we find it beneficial to remember the faces we see. Little is known, however, about whether emotional expressions facilitate or inhibit recognition for person identity. The present studies examined the role of emotional expression on person identity recognition by manipulating whether such information was presented at encoding (i.e., initial perception of the actor) or at recognition (i.e., later memory for the actor). In Experiment 1, participants recognized more actors displaying an angry rather than a happy expression, when they initially saw actors display a neutral expression. Thus, angry rather than happy expressions facilitated recognition memory for person identity. Experiment 2 replicated and extended this finding. Participants recognized more actors displaying a surprised rather than a disgusted, a fearful, a happy or a sad expression, when they initially saw actors display a neutral expression. Furthermore, participants recognized actors displaying a neutral expression, when they initially saw actors display a surprised or a happy expression rather than a disgusted expression. Thus, surprised and angry expressions facilitated recognition memory for person identity, whereas surprised and happy expressions facilitated encoding of person identity. These results have implications not only for basic research concerning cognitive models of face perception (e.g., Bruce & Young, 1986) and evolutionary theories of emotion but also for refinement of methodologies used in the criminal justice system for eyewitness testimony.

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